Posted by Noah Stanton.
On the 16th of October, the Supreme Court has made the decision to proceed on the dispute between government authorities and technology companies like Microsoft, who are being forced to give emails and other digital information “sought in criminal probes but stored outside the U.S.” According to the article, justices intervened in a case of federal drug trafficking investigation where they needed emails that Microsoft had on its servers but were beyond the search warrant being that the servers are in Ireland. The Supreme Court decision is impeding investigations, according to the Trump Administration and 33 states. Cases regarding terrorism, drug trafficking, fraud and child pornography are all being delayed because courts are waiting on the ruling regarding obtaining information that is kept abroad.
This case is among many that tech companies like Microsoft about digital privacy that might relate to crime and extremism. This Supreme Court case is an example of finding the balance between older laws and recent technological developments. Microsoft is saying, “Congress needs to bring the law into the age of cloud computing” where most information is not held in the jurisdiction of current law. Back in 2013, a warrant issued to obtain emails pertaining information about illegal drug transactions. Microsoft cooperated but went to court at the time because the emails held at servers overseas were not handed over.
A Justice Department lawyer stated Microsoft can retrieve emails stored domestically or not with a single click of a button. The simplicity of the action does not change the boundaries the warrant has though. All of these troubles relate back to the 1986 Stored Communications Act, which has minimal use when information is held overseas. The article states, “The current laws were written for the era of the floppy disk, not the world of the cloud.”
The president of Microsoft said Congress needs to act by passing new legislation. This would help put an end to the numerous legal actions that take place about officials trying to obtain private information from U.S. based tech companies because they keep servers around the world. The court is expected to confront the issue of emails from an American citizen or foreigner and where they reside. The Supreme Court Case will take place early next year.
Noah is a business administration major at the Stillman School of Business, Seton Hall University, Class of 2020.